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From the Consumer Reports labs: Is bisonvs beef

Consumer Reports News: January 18, 2013 12:23 PM

Bison is earning some foodie buzz these days for more than its touted health benefits. The menu for President Barack Obama's inaugural luncheon, on Monday, January 21, will feature a hickory-smoked bison tenderloin (raised in South Dakota) during the second course.

For you, bison's real appeal might lie beyond the Beltway spotlight. Bison—often referred to incorrectly as buffalo—is touted as healthier than beef. For instance, members of the National Bison Association (NBA) say they follow a code of ethics that prohibits the use of growth hormones and subtherapeutic antibiotics. (Read our investigation on antibiotics in meat.)

What's more, cut for cut, bison has a bit more iron and is leaner than beef. A 3.5-ounce serving of bison has about 2.5 grams of fat while a comparable quantity of beef has 8 to 18.5 grams, according to the NBA website. (The NBA's beef figures are based on select and choice cuts.)

Sticklers for detail that we are, we decided to check those claims.

The bison rib-eye steak we bought last week ($18.99 per pound) had slightly less marbling than beef rib-eye ($16.99 per pound). The difference in fat became more apparent after pan cooking: The beef steak produced a lot more fat drippings than the bison did.

Our bison testing turns next to taste, with our trained tasters reviewing a variety of different bison meat selected by Mike DiLauro, one of our in-house product-information specialists. We'll be reporting on our health and taste findings in late March. Check back then for all the details.

If you want to eat like a D.C. dignitary or try something new, pick up some bison. It's widely available, so you should be able to find it at a supermarket or butcher near you. And remember, if you want to stick with beef, look for lower-fat cuts, such as top sirloin, or 93 percent lean ground beef.

Looking for a wine to serve with your bison? Check our reviews of red wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, and zinfandel.

—Amy Keating, Senior Project Leader, Technical Division

Wild Idea Buffalo Company

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